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Nov. 23, 2012 at 12:10 PM
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Consumers say 'Show me the bargains'

CHICAGO, Nov. 23 (UPI) -- U.S. consumers say the deals had better be good if retailers want them to spend their money this weekend.

This is the earliest Thanksgiving since 2007, giving consumers plenty of time to get their shopping done before Christmas and Black Friday deals are designed to get consumers in the spending mood.

A Black Friday shopping survey by the National Retail Federation says as many as 147 million people plan to shop this weekend, down from the 152 million who planned to do so last year. While 71 million said they definitely planned to shop, 76 million others said they would wait and see what retailers had in-store.

"Though the Black Friday tradition is here to stay, there's no question that it has changed in recent years," NRF President and Chief Executive Officer Matthew Shay said in a statement. "It's critical for retail companies to constantly evolve as consumers do, and right now shoppers want great deals, good value, and convenience -- exactly what we're seeing with this season's late and early openings, price-matching, layaway and mobile offerings."

Nearly half of shoppers say they keep up with advertising circulars throughout the holiday and more than 30 percent say they watch for television ads. A growing number of U.S. shoppers are keeping track online. The NRF said nearly 27 percent will follow retailers' websites and 31 percent will track emails from retailers to get the latest holiday announcements.

"The days of waking up Thanksgiving morning to find out what retailers' Black Friday promotions will be has transitioned into an ongoing dialogue between companies and their customers starting days in advance," BIGinsight Consumer Insights Director Pam Goodfellow said. "Through sites like Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest, company blogs, emails and mobile apps, consumers can connect with their favorite retailers like never before."

Discover says consumers plan to spend more this holiday season than last year, as long as retailers are offering good deals. The 2012 Discover Annual Holiday Shopping Survey suggests spending will jump to an average of $838 this year, up from $748 in 2011.

U.S. businesses want debt limit addressed

WASHINGTON, Nov. 23 (UPI) -- Wall Street and businesses want lawmakers to raise the debt ceiling as part of the so-called fiscal cliff package, but some Republicans are balking.

The Treasury Department estimates the United States will reach its $16.4 trillion borrowing limit by the end of the year, and the limit will need to be increased by early 2013, The Hill reported Friday.

Some members of the U.S. business community say they want Congress to go ahead and include a measure to increase the debt limit in the package they devise to avoid the looming fiscal cliff, when hundreds of billions of dollars in tax increases and spending cuts are scheduled to begin Jan. 1.

Ken Bensten, head of the Washington office at the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association, said that if Congress addresses the debt limit now, it clears the way for them to work on broad fiscal reforms.

"As a practical matter, it would make sense to wrap it in," he said. "You could move on to deal with tax reform and fiscal reform and all other things ... and not have this looming cataclysmic event hanging over you," he said.

Republican lawmakers, though, say they want to avoid raising the debt limit under a lame-duck Congress, The Hill reported.

Sen. Chambliss shrugs off anti-tax pledge

WASHINGTON, Nov. 23 (UPI) -- U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., said he doesn't think abiding by conservative lobbyist Grover Norquist's anti-tax pledge helps avoid the looming fiscal cliff.

Though he signed the pledge, Chambliss said strictly adhering to it will prevent Republicans and Democrats from working together to find a solution for the country's ballooning debt, CNN reported.

"I care more about my country than I do about a 20-year-old pledge," Saxby said Wednesday. "If we do it [Norquist's] way, then we'll continue in debt and I just have a disagreement with him about that."

Thirty-eight senators and 219 House members have signed the pledge by Norquist, who heads the conservative group Americans for Tax Reform. About one dozen newly elected House members refused to sign the document, though, The Hill reported.

To avoid the impending Jan. 1 fiscal cliff when hundreds of billions of dollars in tax increases and spending cuts are scheduled to begin, President Barack Obama has proposed tax increases for wealthy Americans. Republicans, though, prefer closing certain tax loopholes and eliminating deductions.

Egyptians rally against Morsi's decree

CAIRO, Nov. 23 (UPI) -- Egyptian opposition supporters set fire to Muslim Brotherhood offices in several Egyptian cities on Friday -- the day after the president assumed more powers.

Muslim Brotherhood offices were seen on fire in the Suez Canal cities of Suez, Port Said, and Ismailia, Voice of America reported.

Meanwhile, thousands of Morsi's backers gathered outside of the presidential palace, the BBC reported.

Despite the protests Morsi has vowed to protect the rights of the opposition, saying, "There is a great future for this nation."

On Thursday, Morsi issued a decree stating that all decisions he has made since taking office are not subject to review or appeal.

Mohamed ElBaradei, Nobel Peace Prize laureate who heads the lawyers syndicate and is a key opposition figure, sent out the call for Egyptians to protest Friday, BBC reported.

The president "appointed himself Egypt's new pharaoh. A major blow to the revolution that could have dire consequences," ElBaradei wrote on Twitter.

Russia warns Turkey against missiles

MOSCOW, Nov. 23 (UPI) -- Russia's Foreign Ministry warned against Turkey's intention to deploy NATO missiles on its border with Syria, saying it "would be an alarming signal."

Turkey has proposed deploying Patriot missiles, which the country says is necessary to protect its border with conflict-torn Syria, RIA Novosti reported. Syrian bullets and mortars have hit parts of Turkey, killing several and Syria has downed Turkish military aircraft.

"The militarization of the Turkish-Syrian border would be an alarming signal," said Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said Thursday. "It would do nothing to foster stability in the region."

"Our advice to our Turkish colleagues is to use their influence on the Syrian opposition to draw them closer to dialogue, instead of flexing their muscles and taking the situation down a dangerous path," Lukashevich added.

Meanwhile, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said Wednesday that Turkey's request would be considered soon.

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